Uzbek | Submitted by Umida Khikmatillaeva
In Uzbekistan, the Uzbek alphabet was changed at least five times during the last 80 years. The Arabic script was used until 1929. The Latin alphabet was introduced in 1929, and in 1934 there were changes to the Latin alphabet. In 1940 the Uzbeks started to use the Cyrillic alphabet. In 1989 Uzbek became the official language of the Republic of Uzbekistan. In 1993 the new Latin alphabet was introduced and in 1995 there were some changes made in the alphabet again.
Currently, in Uzbekistan, the Latin script is used mainly in school textbooks, university undergraduate textbooks, the Internet, newspaper headlines, and in some official papers. Cyrillic is used in university graduate textbooks, in the content in newspapers below the headlines, and in some official/non-official papers.
Today, the following scripts are used by Uzbek speakers around the world:
● Latin (in Uzbekistan, simultaneously with Cyrillic)
● Cyrillic (in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan)
● Arabic (in Afghanistan)
The Uzbek lexicon contains many Persian, Arabic, and Russian loan words due to historical integration, and the influence of Islam. Many lexical changes have also taken place in Uzbek since the Glasnost period. After getting Independence, there were active attempts at purifying Uzbek by ridding the language of Russian words, reviving archaic and obsolete words, and changing the meaning of some existing words. Also, many international loan words were borrowed, some dialectal variants became standardized, and new words were created. This process was regulated during the 1990s by the Terminology Committee. However, many international terms borrowed from Russian were retained in the language, since some proposed words were not accepted by the public.
Uzbek dialects are diverse and have elements of all three Turkic dialect groups such as Qarluq, Qipchaq, and Oghuz. There are many classifications of Uzbek dialects, based on phonetic and lexical features. The main classifications and their proponents are Iranized and Non-Iranized dialects (Polivanov), “O” dialect group and “A” dialect group (Borovkov), Qarluq-Uyghur-Chigil, Qipchaq, and the Oghuz dialect groups (Reshetov).
The Uzbek language shares common features of the Turkic languages:
● Uzbek is an agglutinative language;
● Suffixes are added to a word in a fixed order;
● Uzbek lacks grammatical gender;
● Uzbek is a Subject-Object-Verb order language;
● In Uzbek there are no definite and indefinite articles, instead, the word “bir” and the accusative case marker are used to express indefiniteness and definiteness;
● In Uzbek there are various participles, gerunds, and verbal nouns that replace relative clause structures found in English;
● In Uzbek modifiers precede the modified head nouns;
● In Uzbek word roots are mostly monosyllabic;
● In Uzbek, most words carry stress on the final syllable.
Due to the influence of Iranian languages, some dialects have lost vowel harmony. Vowel harmony is not reflected in modern literary Uzbek since it is based on the Tashkent and Ferghana dialects.
Studying Uzbek in the USA
There are a few institutions in the USA where Uzbek is taught as a foreign language. One of the largest centers for study and research on Uzbek is at Indiana University in Bloomington. There are many centers related to the field at Indiana:
Additional institutions to study Uzbek in the USA
American Councils' Eurasian Regional Language Program (Various levels)
Arizona State University's Critical Language Institute (1st and 2nd year)
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